MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Senator Grace Poe filed petitions before the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday, December 28, to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from cancelling her certificate of candidacy (COC) for the 2016 presidential elections.
Hours later, lawyer Estrella Elamparo – a petitioner who convinced the Comelec to cancel Poe’s COC – wrote the SC to oppose the senator’s appeal for a reprieve.
In two petitions for certiorari, Poe is requesting two temporary restraining orders (TROs) from the SC to stop the Comelec from implementing its ruling.
This comes 5 days after the Comelec decided on December 23 to bar her presidential bid. (READ: How Comelec commissioners voted on Grace Poe’s case)
Poe had 5 days from receipt of the decision to secure a reprieve from the SC, which is on recess until January 10.
The high court, however, can hold a special en banc session during the break.
SC spokesperson Theodore Te said that under Rule 7, Section 7 of the Internal Rules of the SC, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno “is empowered to act on urgent cases” and can issue a reprieve without holding a session. This is subject to the confirmation of the majority of the justices when sessions resume. (READ: What now for Grace Poe? 3 things to expect)
In a statement on Monday, Poe said her presidential bid is now in the hands of the SC. (READ: EXPLAINER: What happens if Poe doesn’t get TRO before printing of ballots?)
“I am putting my fate in the hands of the Supreme Court. We remain confident that our justices will protect the rights of foundlings like me to run for public office. We enjoin the public to keep a keen eye on the proceedings and the decision on the case,” the senator said.
She added, “My lawyers have put forward strong evidence, relevant court discussions and principles, and jurisprudence that would show that I am a natural-born Filipino with at least 10 years’ residency in the Philippines.”
‘Grave abuse of discretion’
Poe’s lawyer George Garcia, for his part, accused the Comelec of grave abuse of discretion when it cancelled the senator’s COC.
Two Comelec divisions previously ruled to cancel her COC. The decisions were upheld at the Comelec en banc, or the commission sitting as a whole, with a 5-2 vote on the 1st division case, and a 5-1 vote on the 2nd division case.
Garcia said that the Comelec wrongly interpreted the evidence presented by the senator’s camp to debunk the complaints against her.
He also questioned the timing of the release of the poll body’s decision, which came as government offices were about to go on holiday break.
“That’s where you can see the Comelec’s grave abuse of discretion…The decision was released two days before Christmas. The entire nation knows that the court was going on recess,” Garcia said.
Poe’s camp is requesting a special raffle for the case to be assigned to a Supreme Court justice.
But Garcia added that the Chief Justice herself may choose to issue a TRO without holding a session.
If the Comelec decides to implement its decision on Poe’s disqualification, Garcia said the senator’s camp may still be granted a status quo ante order to undo her exclusion from the 2016 polls.
Elamparo: Poe not entitled to TRO
Elamparo, on the other hand, said in her opposition that Poe is not entitled to a TRO. She also said that contrary to the senator’s claims, Poe does not stand to suffer grave and irreparable damage.
“The Supreme Court had time and again ruled that possible irreparable damage without proof of actual existing right is not a ground for injunction. Where the complainant’s right is doubtful or disputed, injunction is not proper. Absent a clear legal right, the issuance of the injunctive relief constitutes grave abuse of discretion,” Elamparo said.
She added: “Indeed, under no circumstance can it be claimed that inability to run or be included in the ballot as a candidate can cause clear and irreparable damage to a person – as if it were a life and death situation.”
However, Elamparo argued, the damage to the electorate will be “grave and irreparable” if the Comelec’s rulings are not implemented.
“Instead of the electorate being presented only with a list of those who are really qualified, if petitioner’s name is not removed from the official list of candidates and ballot, voters may be misled into voting for her.”
“If later on, it is confirmed that she is not qualified, these voters who were misled would have effectively been disenfranchised as they would have been robbed of the opportunity to vote for a qualified candidate,” Elamparo’s opposition read.
‘I stand by Grace’
Senator Francis Escudero, for his part, expressed confidence that the high court “will uphold the truth” in Poe’s case.
“I have my highest respect for and confidence in our magistrates that they will uphold the truth,” Poe’s running mate said in a statement.
Escudero added that he trusted that the SC justices’ “unquestionable wisdom and integrity will once and for all settle questions surrounding Senator Poe’s qualifications to seek the highest post in the land.”
“I stand by Senator Poe and maintain that she is qualified to run for president in the 2016 national elections,” he said.
Escudero indirectly addressed allegations that he is set to drop Poe as a presidential candidate and support Vice President Jejomar Binay, following the Comelec decisions on her candidacy. (READ: Poe supporters slam Escudero as ‘Boy Laglag’)
“Let us not allow baseless allegations being floated by malicious minds to once again succeed and supersede the very heart of the issue here, which is the right of Sen. Poe, a foundling, to run for office,” he said. – Rappler.com